In our NordicTrack Recumbent Bike Reviews, we’re going to focus on the excellent Commercial VR21 recumbent cycle, this isn’t their most advanced offering nor is it their highest priced recumbent but it is in our opinion their best-valued recumbent.

Packed full of features including 32 workout programs, and 25 resistance levels, the VR21 recumbent offers more than nearly all in this price range. A high-quality semi-commercial build ensures this recumbent is stable, durable and solid.

We’ll also take a quick look at the VR21’s bigger brother the VR25. The VR25 recumbent cycle offers a few extra features compared to the VR21 which some of you may be searching for, but extra features inevitably require more of your dollars.

You can find out if the VR25 is worth the extra bucks at the end of the review.

Back to the VR21, let’s take a quick look at the product specs.

Product Specifications

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Product dimensions –  61.1” L x 24.2” W x 54.6” H Footprint

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Weight – 154lb (70kg)

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Resistance Type – Magnetic

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Resistance levels – 25

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Frame – Heavy duty steel tubing

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Weight Capacity – 350lb

What do We Like About The NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Bike?

I think our favorite design feature has to be the step-thru frame design. The step-thru design of the VR21’s frame makes the NordicTrack cycle super easy to access, especially for many people with joint problems or anyone, including seniors, who are looking for an exercise machine that is easy to mount.

Recumbent bikes are designed specifically to support your upper body and work your lower body, and this is what the VR21 does very well, easy to access, low profile, and a large wide seat to fit nearly all users.

And what’s also nice to see is a vented backrest, a vented backrest really helps reduce sweating while you work out, letting the air flow freely.

The only slight let down in the design is the lack of any adjustments for the backrest, the backrest is fixed, so no adjusting the height or angle of the backrest. You’ll have to pay a few hundred more $’s if you’re after this option.

Build Quality

For the price point, the build quality on show here is unbeatable, this bike has been built to last and the one telling sign of that is the bike’s weight, at 154lb the VR21 is heavy.

The bike being heavy is a very good thing, not only does the extra weight help a ton with stability, but it also gives us a very good clue to the overall quality of the machine.

The general rule is, the heavier the bike, the higher the quality of the materials used in the build.

But don’t worry too much if you are thinking with all that weight it’s going to be a complete pain in the butt to move, the VR21 comes fully equipped with integrated transport wheels, so if you do need to move this thing all you have do is tilt and roll, simple!

Okay, the price, the VR21 recumbent bike is priced under a $1000 which wouldn’t normally buy you a commercial grade recumbent, and I’m sorry to say it doesn’t, even though they like to state it does.

Commercial grade recumbents cost 1000’s. Yes, the VR21 is probably as close to commercial-grade as you are going to find for under $1000 but it wouldn’t hold up to years and years of commercial use. It’s good but it’s not that good!

NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Cycle

Control Console/Monitor

I really like the monitor of the VR21, it’s certainly one of the most advanced you will see in this price bracket, it’s also nice and easy to read thanks to the backlit display.

Yes, a few of you may complain the monitor doesn’t boast an HD screen but, to be honest, LCD works out fine for this bike, and I don’t think it’s worth paying the extra for an HD one.

With 25 resistance levels and 32 workout programs it outshines all in its class, workout programs are a great way to break up the monotony of long workout sessions.

You can choose workouts such as hill climbs and races etc, this adds some fun to your cycling and also creates a whole variety of challenges for you to accomplish. 

And remember this excellent monitor includes iFit Coach capability, the iFit app will give you access to an endless choice of preset workouts, you’ll never get bored of cycling while using this app.

The VR21 recumbent cycle includes built-in pulse sensors in the handlebars, which are ok for monitoring pulse rate for the less serious cyclists among you, but if you are after a more accurate way of monitoring heart rate, a heart rate chest strap is your best option.

Thankfully, the VR21 monitor has been designed to be used with one. Although you have to buy the chest strap separately.

Magnetic Resistance

As we mentioned above the VR21 includes 25 levels of resistance, which is more than enough for most people’s needs. I haven’t heard any complaints from users about the strength of resistance, there are easily enough levels here to suit beginners to more advanced users.

I wouldn’t advise serious athletes to buy a recumbent as most including the VR21 do not provide enough strength in the resistance to make it worth their while, an upright exercise bike is better suited for seasoned athletes.

But for most of us, there’ll be no outgrowing this machine any time soon with many users praising the strength of the smooth magnetic resistance.

One of the big upsides of buying an exercise machine that utilizes magnetic resistance is just how quiet magnetic resistance is in operation, you can even watch TV while you exercise and you won’t disturb yourself or anyone else around you. Very handy for people who do not have a dedicated gym space.

Pros

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Solid, well built machine

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Quiet magnetic resistance

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25 resistance levels

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32 workout programs

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350lb max user weight

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32 workout programs

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Includes the AutoBreezeTM workout fan which automatically adjusts to the intensity of your workout 

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iFit coach compatible

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Step-thru frame

Cons

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Have to pay extra for the heart rate chest strap

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Only 2-year parts warranty

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Not commercial grade – Best for beginners and intermediate users.

                                                                                         

Alternative

NordicTrack VR25 Commercial Recumbent

Surprisingly, considering the price of the VR25 you would think the VR25 offers a whole lot more than the VR21, but when you take a close look at the VR25 there really isn’t that much between the two.

The overall design and quality of the bikes are the same, the weight of both bikes are similar, both offer step-thru frame designs, and both have a similar amount of resistance levels, the VR21 offers 25, while the VR25 has 26 resistance levels.

Yes, the flywheel is slightly heavier with the VR25 so resistance strength may be somewhat stronger in the upper levels, but nothing that will be hugely noticeable and not really worth paying twice the price for.

Ok, now the built-in workout programs, 32 are included with the VR21 and 35 with VR25, again, not a whole lot of difference although, worth noting here, is the inclusion of the one-year membership for the iFit app, so no need to pay extra for this option as you would with the VR21.

So, why is the VR25 so much more expensive than it’s little brother? The monitor of the VR25 is considerably more advanced than the VR21. The VR25 boasts a 7″ full HD web-enabled touchscreen monitor and it’s basically this that has bumped the price so high.

It is certainly one of the most advanced monitors I’ve seen on any recumbent and I like that they include the Bluetooth enabled heart rate chest strap to go with it, but paying well over $1000 ($1600) at the time of writing this review, to me, is a little bit over the top for a recumbent that still can not claim to be commercial grade.

One useful feature I liked about the VR25 was being able to change resistance settings and workout programs from the buttons integrated into the handlebars, a nice touch from NordicTrack but, again, it’s an option you can live without.

Overall, the NordicTrack VR25 is one of the best recumbents out there right now, but if you can go without an HD monitor and a few extra workout programs, I’d highly recommend saving yourselves a few bucks and opting for the VR21 recumbent cycle.